Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

July 2011

by Jonathan Lowe

What's at the end of the American dream rainbow? As Dan Simmons tells it in FLASHBACK--an epic and apocalyptic SF story--mainly a bunch of abandoned strip malls where bankrupted Americans take a drug that lets them relive the past, (when people still cared.) Former Detective Bottoms has indeed reached bottom when he is hired by a rich, ruling class Japanese tycoon to reopen his son's murder case. What he discovers is more than anyone hooked on Flash should know. Original and ironic, the story is told with eccentric abandon by narrators Richard M. Davidson, Bryan Kennedy, and Joe Barrett.

For a different version on this theme, Mike Chamberlain reads ROBOPOCALYPSE by Daniel H. Wilson, who has a doctorate in robotics. What makes this novel interesting is assumptive insights into the science of robotics, which aren't thrust on the listener, but evolve within its focus on character in telling the story. Various survivors of the singularity of artificial intelligence are recounted, after a computer has been awakened and accidentally released only to start a war against humanity (in order to save life on planet Earth.) Surprisingly original, even within the limiting Terminator war genre, it captures and holds attention throughout. And Steven Spielberg has optioned the book for a movie.
Next, imagine George Carlin reading material by Redd Foxx or Richard Pryor, and you'll be close to Sean Schemmel's interpretation of Justin Halpern's father in SH*T MY DAD SAYS. It is perhaps wryly apt that the author of this short memoir, written in recollection of having to move back in with his dad after being dumped by his girlfriend at age 28, was contributor to a men's magazine. Mr. Halpern the elder first became inspiration for Justin's popular Twitter posts--perfect medium for these terse, expletive-not-deleted observations made by a dad short on tact and inhibition. As narrator, Sean Schemmel evokes Justin's chagrin in an arc that leads to guilty admiration, revealing the love they share beneath it all.
Howard Schultz had the dream of bringing the Italian espresso bar experience to America, and in the process transformed Starbucks from a tiny bean-selling store into an international chain known for a consistent brand of gourmet blends. When the company lost control of quality in its obsession with growth, he came back to the helm and closed the doors one day to teach employees how to pour once more. Quality and service to customers balanced a respect for the environment and a fairness of practices. The ups and downs of the company and its founder is well told by narrator Joanne Gordon as ONWARD: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul. One interesting item: Schultz doesn't care for those sugar rich Fraps. He prefers espresso.

AMERICAN ROSE is the tragic story of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, and is handled with grace and balance while providing a peek behind the curtain of an era when vaudeville was our only television, and when bankers actually jumped out of windows without golden government parachutes. An intimate and revelatory history of how a psychopathic parent can affect her children, it's by Karen Abbott (easily the most attractive author out there, herself!) Reader is the very listenable actress Bernadette Dunne, who is superb in evoking the time while keeping listener attention and disappearing behind the story. For my interview with the author see Tower Review.


2011 Past Columns